BABY SITTING UP: W-SIT

a baby sits in the shape of a W

W-Sit Position

 

A baby sits with legs straight

Sitting with Legs Extended

When babies learn to crawl, they stop and sit so their hands are free to play with a toy.  One common pattern of sitting that emerges in infancy is the W-sit.  The name of this position comes from the idea that if you take a photo from above, the shape of the legs looks like the letter “W.”  Look at the top photo of baby Sayid in the W-sit position.  His hands are free to play with toys while he sits.  However, Sayid’s mother knew that the W-sit position was not the best for him, so she requested a virtual lesson with Stellar Caterpillar.  After one virtual lesson and some daily guidance from his mother, Sayid learned to prefer other sitting positions such as the long sitting position which is seen in the bottom photo where he sits with his legs extended out in front of him.  Let’s explore why other sitting positions are preferable for the motor skill development of a baby.

WHY DO BABIES W-SIT?

When crawling or walking, babies often just plop down into the W-sit.  It is a quick movement and requires less coordination of the bones and muscles, so it is easier to do than the side sit, butterfly sit, or long sit.  Sitting in this position very quickly accomplishes their goal of sitting down and freeing their arms and hands to play with toys or eat a snack.  Quite simply, babies W-sit because they get what they want quickly!  As they learn other patterns of sitting, baby’s body recognizes the benefits and begins to prefer the other, and developmentally beneficial, sitting positions.  These include tailor sit, butterfly sit, Z-sit, and long sit.  Slowly they drop the pattern of W-sit.

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH THE W-SIT?

Babies are limited in their mobility as they W-sit.   Their lower legs and pelvis are fixed in a way that is not easily moveable and they are not able to shift their weight from side to side or twist/rotate their torso.  They play with toys on their right side with their right hand and toys on their left side with their left hand.  This does not develop the skill of mid-line crossing (reaching across the body) and does not encourage the development of hand dominance (preferring the use of right hand or left hand). The internal rotation of the hips tightens the hips muscles and actually makes it more difficult to sit in the other positions as time goes on.  This leads to the W-sit becoming a habit.  Over time if the child continues to W-sit as she grows it may lead to orthopedic problems such as hip dislocation or knee pain.

HOW CAN A PARENT PREVENT BABY FROM W-SITTING?

The key to avoiding the W-sit is to guide baby to learn other choices for sitting.  Baby will feel the advantages in these other positions and choose them over the W-sit.  Some babies will learn the other sitting positions right away, the first time you show them.  Other babies will require much repetition until they finally find them on their own.  And a few babies will need even more repetition to find the position.  What is important to remember is that baby will learn to choose other ways of sitting and will enjoy them very much as they discover improved mobility.  They can grab toys all around them in these other positions due to the ability to rotate their torso and reach across their mid-line.

Observe baby Sayid in the above photos. In the top photo (in the view taken from above his head), he is in the W-sit and can turn only his head to the side.  His torso is fixed in position.  In the bottom photo of Sayid in the long sitting position, he is able to turn his torso toward the camera to smile and to reach toward his mother.  The more he sits in this new position, the more he will discover he can turn his torso and reach to the side.  His movement will develop with more skill.  By teaching baby alternate ways of sitting that offer her more mobility, baby will develop motor skills with more strength, balance, and coordination.  This will enhance more advanced motor skill development such as walking, running, climbing, dancing, and more.

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BABY SITTING POSITIONS

SITTING AS TRANSITION

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MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT: FROM STANDING TO WALKING

My baby is 10 months old and is pulling herself up to stand.  What motor skill developments can I expect next?—from a mother in class

MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT OF BABY STANDING

Every parent is excited to see their baby pull herself up onto her feet.  This is a sign that the stage of infancy is soon coming to an end and toddlerhood is on the horizon.  However, there is still much for baby to learn and develop from the skill of standing up to the skill of walking.  For example, once baby learns to stand up she often learns an improved way to stand.  Sometimes she begins standing up on the side of her ankle, or by pulling herself up with her arms and keeping her legs straight.  We show baby how she can stand up by placing one foot on the ground and stepping on it to lift her up.  This uses the bigger and stronger muscles of the legs and hips and encourages healthy development of the foot and ankle joints.

SKILL REVERSIBILITY:  BABY STANDING TO SITTING OR CRAWLING

After baby stands up, she will need to learn to sit down again on her knees or her behind.  Reversing the skill of standing up is very important.  Sometimes babies cry after they stand up because they do not know how to get back down again.  If a baby has crawled a bit before standing up it will be easier to get back down on the knees  or to sitting because it is a familiar place for them in their nervous system.  She will need to bend her knees to get back down on the floor.  A considerable amount of baby strength develops with this action of standing up and squatting to a sitting or kneeling position.  Think of it as baby squats.

BALANCE AND BABY FOOT DEVELOPMENT

The motor skill development of standing is most significant for it’s placement of baby on her feet for the first time.  Baby’s bones and muscles in her feet will develop strength and she will develop her ability to balance during the action of standing up and just standing there.  It is important to understand that when baby stands up and does not move, significant development is occuring in her feet.  Look down at her feet and watch them wiggle a bit as she develops her balance.  You may see her toes curling under a bit at first and then soon they can elongate onto the floor once her balance is more secure.  Holding onto a chair or coffee table (that is baby proofed) is essential for baby to feel stable during this time.  Holding onto your hand is not stable enough.  Wait until she is walking on her own to hold her hands in the standing position.

WEIGHT TRANSFER:  MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT OF SIDE CRUISING

Once baby is stable on her feet she will be motivated by her curiosity to take some side ways steps.  This is the motor skill of cruising, also called “side cruising.”  The steps are taken sideways as she faces a chair seat or a low table to hold onto for stability.  This movement develops the ability to transfer her weight from one foot to another.  This presents additional challenge to her balance, coordination, and strength.  Place a light weight object such as an O-Ball on the table or nearby chair so she will be motivated to move toward it.  If she throws it on the floor it is not heavy and will not hurt her foot.  You can develop this into a game for baby of throwing the O-Ball off of the chair.

BALANCE DEVELOPMENT:  ”LOOK MA, NO HANDS!”

After baby spends time in the skill of side cruising, she will gain the strength and confidence to let of of the table and stand on her own two feet without holding on to anything.  Watch her feet as she stands.  This is a tremendous skill advancement and further develops her balance.  You will know when this skill is emerging when she can hold onto the table with only one hand and turn and look behind her or off to one side.

WALKING INDEPENDENTLY:  FORWARD STEPS EMERGE FROM THE CRUISING

After baby’s balance improves so she can stand without holding on, she will begin to take forward steps on her own.  You might observe that during her side cruising, she may turn a bit sideways and take a few forward steps mixed in with her sideways steps.  This is the motor skill of walking beginning to emerge.  Once she has the balance, coordination, and strength to take forward steps without holding on to a chair or table she will do so.  We call this motor skill independent walking because she is walking on her own.  You may see parents holding the baby’s hands to help her walk, but I recommend NOT holding her hands.  Your hands are not as stable as a table and she will feet unsteady.  Look down and you may see her toes curling under to help her figure out how to balance.  After she has been walking a bit on her own, then you can hold her hands to keep her near you.  She will walk on her own when her muscles and bones are ready and when she has the confidence and security to do so.

 


GAMES FOR BABY: STACKING CUPS

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BABY PLAY WITH NESTING OBJECTS

The motor skill of nesting or stacking objects, such as cups, can be developed through baby play with simple household objects as well as baby toys. Nesting refers to objects that fit one inside of the other.  For example, measuring cups in your kitchen are nested on inside of the other so they fit tightly in one stack.  However, they have to be placed in the stack in an orderly manner from the smallest size on top to the largest size on the bottom.  Play with a stack of cups may be easier for a baby because they can be stacked without the additional skill of determining the order by the object size.  Although the skill of nesting objects usually emerges after babies turn one year old and are technically “toddlers,” they will enjoy the “unstacking” part of the skill before they reach their first birthday.  Try adding some stacking bath toys to bath time. The skill of nesting demands coordination as they use one hand to hold one object steady while the other hand places another object on top of or inside of the object they are holding.

KITCHEN OBJECTS FOR BABY PLAY

Babies can play for long periods of time with kitchen items.  A set of nested measuring cups (with the connecting ring removed for safety) or a set of nested mixing bowls are great for baby play.  In the above video from MaryAnn MamaSmilesblog’s youtube channel, a baby explores how many plastic cups could fit tightly together, one inside of the next.  She also discovers how many pieces (cups) are in the stack of cups by separating each cup out of the stack or nest.  At the end of the video she picks up the entire stack as one piece.  Through her play she has explored how one “object” can become many separate pieces.  She also explores how the relationship between these pieces changes.  This stack of plastic cups is an inexpensive toy that provides excellent play and exploration.  Always supervise baby play because plastic cups can break, exposing sharp corners.


SONGS FOR BABY: ROLY POLY

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BABY DEVELOPMENT:  LEARNING OPPOSITES

As babies become more skilled with their movements, we can begin to teach them concepts regarding spatial orientation.  These concepts are more easily learned when taught in context with their opposites.  For example, it is easier to grasp the meaning of “up” when it is learned with “down,” or “inside” when learned with “outside,” and “hot” when learned with “cold.”  When the differences between two words (what they represent) is enormous, it is easier to understand.  The nursery rhyme “Roly Poly” is a classic song for teaching babies and toddlers the concepts of a few “opposites.”

NURSERY RHYMES AND SPEECH DEVELOPMENT

“Roly Poly” is also an excellent song for speech development in babies because most of the words repeat in patterns of three, making it easier for baby to try and grasp the pronunciation.  These words are short, “Up,” “Down,” “In,” “Out,” and “Clap.”   Watch the above video from Mother Goose Club’s youtube channel.  The young girl demonstrates arm movements along with the rhyme, and you can try these movements with baby’s arms.  You may want to avoid trying to put her hands behind her back, though.  She also demonstrates very clear articulation of the words by exaggerating them with her mouth and lips.  This helps baby learn how to speak.  Try exaggerating the movements of your mouth as you speak the rhyme with baby.  Your face will be close to hers as you move her arms, so she can see how you are creating these interesting sounds.

“ROLY POLY” SONG LYRICS

Roly Poly, Roly Poly

Up, Up, Up

Roly Poly, Roly Poly

Down, Down, Down

Roly Poly, Roly Poly

In, In, In

Roly Poly, Roly Poly

Out, Out, Out

Roly Poly, Roly Poly

Clap, Clap, Clap

Roly Poly, Roly Poly

Hands Behind Your Back.


SONGS FOR BABY: WIND THE BOBBIN UP

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BABY PLAY FOR HANDS AND ARMS

Baby songs often involve hand gestures, which babies love!  The song “Wind The Bobbin Up” is a fantastic rhyme to sing to baby while teaching her to bring her hands in front of her.  If your baby makes the airplane movement in tummy time (where she puts her arms straight out to the side and lifts them off of the ground), try this game with her.  You might try playing this game with baby when she is in the high chair.  The first few lines of the song are the most important, so you can want to just focus on those lines to begin.  The above video from Daviddesu’s youtube channel shows the hand and arm movements very clearly.  As baby plays with her hands and arms in front of her she will find it easier to bring them in front of her when she is in tummy time.  The pattern of bringing the hands toward each other will be more familiar to her as she plays this game.  For older babies and toddlers, this is a great rhyme for them to learn to do some of the gestures on their own as they join in to the song.  They can follow your lead.

WIND THE BOBBIN UP:  LYRICS

According to wikipedia, this rhyme can be traced back to the 1890′s in Yorkshire.  Here are the lyrics for you to learn:

Wind the bobbin up, Wind the bobbin up,

Pull, pull, clap, clap, clap.

Wind it back again, Wind it back again,

Pull, pull, clap, clap, clap.

Point to the ceiling, Point to the floor,

Point to the window, Point to the door.

Clap your hands together, 1, 2, 3,

Do a roly-poly, put your hands upon your knee.


TIPS FOR TUMMY-TIME: GROUNDING THE AIRPLANE

My baby is now six months old and has really got the hang of rolling from back to belly.  She does it a lot.  Once she is on her belly she has a tendency to go into airplane mode (legs in the air, arms out to the sides slightly behind her) and can get very frustrated.  She knows how to roll back, she just doesn’t want to, and resists my attempts to help her.  If she whinges (cries) a lot I pick her up, but she often reaches to go straight back down again, so he’s obviously trying to do something with it.  I think she’s trying to move forwards, but doesn’t know how to get going.  -From a mother in Scotland

DEVELOPMENTAL PLAY FOR BABY’S ARMS

In the airplane movement baby lifts both arms and legs off of the ground at the same time, with the arms straight out to the side.  This happens when baby is in tummy time.  To teach baby to keep her hands on the floor, and even learn to push up with them, you can try a few exercise with her.  Start with her on her back and try bending and extending one arm several times. Move her hand toward the ceiling to extend (straighten) it and bend the arm by bringing the elbow down toward the floor.  As you extend her hand toward the ceiling, gradually move her hand so it is more over the middle of her body (her breast bone).  She is familiar with the pattern of reaching her arms straight out to the sides as she does in the airplane action on her stomach.  This exercise is giving her the experience of moving her arms more toward her center, a less familiar place.  As she gets familiar with this place in space it will be easier for her to find it when she is on her stomach.

TRY TUMMY TIME WITH A NEW TOY

Try put her in tummy time and give her a toy that she will want to explore with both hands.  This will bring both hands more toward the midline as keep them there for awhile as she plays with the toy.  When she does have her hands on the floor you can lightly brush the tops of her hands with your fingers and gently press the palm of her hand down to cue her to push that part of her hand into the floor.  This is “grounding the airplane,” helping baby connect to the floor.  Baby will learn that the floor is helpful for her, for example, the more she leans on it the higher she can lift her head.

GO WITH HER PATTERN RATHER THAN AGAINST IT

How do we ground the legs?  When she is on her back try brushing the legs with your fingers from the top of the hip to the tips of her toes.  Make long brushing strokes with your fingers so she develops clear proprioception of the legs.  When she is on her tummy repeat this brushing of the legs so she becomes aware that she is lifting them off of the ground.  Then gently press her pelvis down into the floor so she feels the contact there.  Then try gently moving one leg further away from the floor a few times to go with the pattern she is activating.   Then bring her thigh a little closer to the floor and gently press it into the floor so she has the sensation of it leaning on the floor.  Repeat this a few times.  You are giving her the experience of feeling what it feels like to move the leg further away from the floor and to lean on the floor.  Her system will soon choose the more efficient pattern, which is leaning on the floor.

 A GAME FOR BABY TO AVOID

Take a moment and ask yourself if you occasionally hold baby up toward the sky like and airplane.  If so, observe how her arms go straight out to the sides and her legs go up.  This activity can trigger the startle reflex.  She may be learning this airplane pattern in this activity.  Take a break from this activity for awhile and try some other developmental games suggested in this post.